4 December

Pick a Day

4 DECEMBER

In Music History

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2014 The day after a fake MSNBC story reports the death of Axl Rose, the very much alive Guns N' Roses frontman tweets: "if I'm dead do I still have to pay taxes?"

2013 REO Speedwagon, Styx, Richard Marx and Survivor play a "Rock to the Rescue" concert in Bloomington, Illinois to benefit victims of a November 17 tornado in the area. Longtime REO guitarist Gary Richrath joins the band for "Ridin' the Storm Out," his first appearance with the group since he left in 1989. It's the last time he plays with the band, as he dies in 2015.

2011 Chicago blues musician Hubert Sumlin, a member of Howlin' Wolf's band, dies of heart failure at age 80.

2009 Shakira guest stars on Ugly Betty in the episode "The Bahamas Triangle." The "Hips Don't Lie" singer steps in to save Betty's swimsuit photo shoot.

2007 Pimp C (real name Charles Lamont Butler) is found dead in a West Hollywood, California, hotel room. The 33-year-old rapper had ingested promethazine and codeine, drugs used in the "purple drank" referred to in many rap songs.

1990 The Simpsons extend their pop culture dominance into music with the album The Simpsons Sing The Blues. Led by the Michael Jackson-assisted single "Do The Bartman," it sells over 2 million copies in America.More

1988 In Akron, Ohio, Roy Orbison plays his last concert (his final song: "Running Scared"). The legendary singer dies of heart failure two days later.

1987 16-year-old Alison Krauss releases her debut album, Too Late To Cry, backed by her band Union Station.

1979 Fleetwood Mac fans at The Forum in Inglewood get a brassy surprise when the USC Trojan Marching Band is brought out to perform "Tusk." The USC band, which appears on the recording, makes four more appearances at Forum concerts with Fleetwood Mac over the next seven days.

1976 Tommy Bolin, age 25, dies from a drug overdose in a Miami hotel room, after opening for Jeff Beck at the Jai-Alai Fronton in Miami. Hours before the guitarist's death, Bolin responded to a news reporter's well wishes by saying, "I've been taking care of myself my whole life. Don't worry about me. I'm going to be around for a long time."

1975 Kiss earn their first Gold album with Alive!.

1971 Sly and the Family Stone's "Family Affair" hits #1 for the first of three weeks.

1969 President Richard Nixon, Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew, and forty US governors view "simulated acid trip" films and listen to rock music in order to comprehend the generation gap.

1965 Jacques Brel makes his American concert debut, performing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

1965 The Rolling Stones release December's Children (And Everybody's) in the US.

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Blaze In Montreaux Sparks "Smoke On The Water"

1971

During a Frank Zappa concert, the Montreux Casino in Switzerland catches fire when someone fires a flare gun, inspiring Deep Purple's "Smoke On The Water." Deep Purple are there to record their album Machine Head the following day, but end up using the Grand Hotel and including the song as a last-minute addition.


The group arrived in Montreux, a resort city on the Lake Geneva shore, with plans to record Machine Head, their seventh album, in the casino using the Rolling Stones' mobile recording unit, which is parked outside. The idea is to capture the live ambiance of the hall, which has great acoustics. Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention have a show at the casino that night, so Deep Purple plans to take in the concert and start working when he clears the stage. The plan is foiled when during the show someone shoots a flare gun into the ceiling, igniting a fire. At first, most assume the pyro is part of the show, but it soon becomes clear that the casino will burn to the ground. Zappa figures it out right away: he stops the show and directs people to the exits. Still, there is panic as audience members flee for their lives. Everyone makes it to safety, thanks in part to Claude Nobs, who runs the Montreux Jazz Festival and is familiar with the venue. He gets everyone out of the basement and helps maintain order. Deep Purple are relocated to a disco called the Pavilion, where they record the track to "Smoke On The Water" before getting booted due to noise complaints. They finish the album using the Grand Hotel as a studio, recording it with the Stones' mobile unit as planned. On the last day of recording, engineer Martin Birch breaks the news that they need another song to fill out the album, so lead singer Ian Gillan and bass player Roger Glover write some lyrics about their adventure - complete with a cast of characters that includes "Frank Zappa and the Mothers" and "Funky Claude" Nobs - and add a vocal to the track they recorded at the Pavilion. When it's in the can, they aren't impressed. The song barely makes the album, and they rarely play it live. A year goes by before it's released as a single in America (it isn't issued as a single in their native UK until 1977, when a live version is released). That's when the song, powered by Ritchie Blackmore's historic guitar riff, finds its groove. It climbs to #4, sells 500,000 copies in two months and becomes a rock classic.

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James Marchment from Albany Western AustraliaWhen I first heard them sing the phrases "Smoooke on the water. Fire in the skyy! I thought they'd just added to the descriptive genre of PROUD MARY, but there was more than a big wheel keepin on turning and a boiler furnace burning! What a pity they saved the superidiot who fired the flaregun! Was he set to keep a big treadmill turning Geneva's dynamos til he'd paid for the damage?

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